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The virtual advisor

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Steve Plewes didn’t get into the financial services industry with the idea that he’d become a virtual advisor. At that time, 32 years ago, the concept of “going virtual” might have sounded like something out of the imagination of Star Wars creator George Lucas.

But Plewes, CLU, ChFC, founder of Maryland-based Advisors Financial Strategies Inc., tells me he’s always been an early adopter of technology. “I like to dive into new things,” he says.

He had computers in the 80s and took on new technology over the decades as it became available. Then, nine months ago, he made the biggest leap of all — he went completely virtual.

For Plewes, that meant eliminating the brick and mortar office. All client files were moved to the cloud. He now utilizes Internet phones, makes presentations on the iPad and doesn’t even have a mainframe computer or PC.

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The move didn’t happen overnight. About six years ago, Plewes started scanning all client files into a paperless filing system. “The files were getting big,” he says. “There was always a debate on what to keep and what to throw away. So, we wanted to go paperless.”

Steve PlewesPlewes adds that many of the programs he uses “are web based. We had to ask the question: why do we need a server? We don’t store anything on the server.” These days Plewes uses Dropbox and tools like that to pass paper around.

While going virtual sounds good on paper, what about Plewes’ business? Can it hold up, continue to thrive, without the traditional office? That’s the thing — he says business hasn’t slowed down. “We haven’t lost a single client since making the move to a virtual office.”

I remind Plewes that he’s an early adopter of technology, which might make this virtual business model okay for him, but what about other advisors?

“Most advisors could pick up these tools fairly easy if they’d take the time to learn them,” Plewes says. “These applications really are easy to pick up.”

He adds that some advisors on the broker/dealer side of the business might want to check with compliance, just to be safe on that end, when embracing new technology. In addition, he strongly urges advisors wanting to take the plunge to “get in touch with a tech geek to help you figure stuff out so you can utilize the different applications.”

Once you take the tech challenge, Plewes adds, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make the virtual office work for you, wherever you are in the world.

For more from Daniel Williams, see:

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